Three-time Olympic medalist Karen Cockburn has been fueling on the adrenalin rush from jumping on a trampoline and soaring through the air since the age of 12.
She just loves it, and her outstanding gymnastics career proves it.
Cockburn has accomplished what most athletes only dream. She won three Olympic medals – only the fourth Canadian to do so at three consecutive games – was flag-bearer for Canada at the closing ceremony of the 2008 Olympics, and has earned dozens of World Cup medals, including a silver last week in Denmark, in addition to a world championship gold in 2003.
The Toronto native thought about retiring after the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but she wasn’t quite ready.
“I felt really burned out after Beijing. I thought about retiring, but after watching the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, it really motivated me to want to compete in another games,” said Cockburn, who has been on the national team for 13 years.
“I am glad I decided to keep training, because I still really enjoy the sport and I have had a successful season on the World Cup circuit,” she said in an interview with the Toronto Observer a couple of days before flying to Mexico for the Pan American Games.
She’s training intensively at the Skyriders Trampoline Place in Richmond Hill, and this time she wants to win the ultimate prize at the 2012 London Summer Olympics.
“My first goal is to qualify for the Games, then I will be training and perfecting my routines. I want a gold medal, but I have a strong competition from the Chinese team,” said Cockburn, who just turned 31.
To qualify for London, she needs to earn one of the two spots in the women’s event at the upcoming world championships in November, and she also needs to do well at the Pan Ams.
Then there will be an internal selection to decide who will represent Canada in 2012.
To get where she is today was a bumpy, but fun journey.
Many obstacles were in Cockburn’s way on her rise to the top in the trampoline world, but her passion and desire to win were always strong.
She was just getting started on the national team in 1995 when a serious knee injury knocked her out of competition until the following year.
Yet she came back, and has thrived in the sport ever since.
“Her mental and physical strength is what makes her the athlete and individual she is. She can jump really high and really wants to win,” said Dave Ross, Cockburn’s coach for 20 years.
The knee wouldn’t leave Cockburn alone, as it was re-injured again in 2007 while she was practising a routine for the world championships.
But it didn’t stop her.
She delayed the surgery until after the competition, and earned one of two spots for Canada in women’s trampoline at the Beijing Olympics, winning that Olympic silver medal while competing in pain.
Injuries are still bothering Cockburn.
“My knee is pretty good right now, but my feet have been giving me problems. I have plantar fasciitis [heel inflammation] in both feet so I am constantly jumping in pain,” she said.
“I am hoping they will get better when I have some time off after the world championships.”
But this won’t stop her either.
Cockburn will be ready to begin a new chapter after the 2012 Olympics, and one of the new things is starting a family with her husband, two-time Olympian and fellow trampolinist Mathieu Turgeon.
“I will stay involved in the sport as a coach and volunteer,” she said.
Trampoline now and forever.